Warning: Vulgar language and sophomoric humor approaching.
During my first hour in London, I left Heathrow’s Terminal Three dragging my wheeled suitcase behind me, and stepped onto a Piccadilly Line train on my way to the Earl’s Court Tube station. A flat reserved for me in Kensington waited, as did the Warwick Arms public house down the road, although I didn’t yet know my soon-to-be favorite pub existed (I would in about an hour and a half). I placed my bag out of the way of other passengers, sat on a surprisingly comfortable seat, and readied myself to fall in love with London. It didn’t take long.
“This is a Piccadilly Line service,” a pleasant recorded female voice said over the public address system, “for Cockfosters.”
A grin split my face. Cockfosters? Yes, my first laugh in this new country was because of a dick joke. For the next month, every time I boarded a train on the Piccadilly Line, the public address call for Cockfosters never let me down.
Cockfosters is a north London suburb with roots in the 16th century. The name is derived from the manor house of the cock (archaic for “chief”) forester of Enfield Chase. A pubic house (trend-setting as they damn well should be) named Cockfosters opened in 1613, and a village was erected there (sorry. I couldn’t help it) shortly after.
Oh, sure, the history’s nice, but the name still makes me laugh. Cockfosters, however, isn’t the only place name in England that didn’t seem to age well, at least to my brain (playing the part of Jason’s brain is the brain of a random 12-year-old).
Maidenhead (an amazingly affluent area of England. So affluent I had to pay a licensing fee just to write that word) is quite close to Cock Marsh (one of the best lowland wetland areas of England), and not that far from Bushey (a town of 24,000 that quite possibly doesn’t know how funny its name is).
There’s also Mudchute, Tooting Broadway, Ogle Street, Penistone Road, Upper Butts, Cumming Street, Back Passage, Hooker’s Road, and the less sexual, Batman Close (which should have the lowest crime rate on the planet), Knightrider Street (a distant second), and Elvis Road (TCB, baby).
England also has Boggy Bottom, Booty Lane, Brown Willy, Clap Hill (tourist advice: don’t go there without an extra strength condom and a can of Scotch Guard), Cockermouth, Dicks Mount, Fanny Barks, Happy Bottom, (and the equally unhappy) Scratchy Bottom, Spanker Lane (which presumably never gets a date on the weekend), Titty Ho, and Wham Bottom Lane.
This isn’t just England. Strange, hilarious place names are everywhere, like the tiny Austrian village of Fucking (yes, Fucking. English speakers have stolen so many of the village’s “welcome to” signs over the years it had to make new ones out of Kryptonite and guard them with rabid bears); Dildo, Newfoundland, Canada; Middlefart, Denmark; and Blowhard, Australia. The United States is also full of “what the hell were people thinking” place names, such as Intercourse, Pennsylvania; Climax, Michigan; Pussy Creek, Ohio; Whiskey Dick Mountain in Washington State; and Looneyville, Texas.
But at least dirty British names sound amazing when the automated Tube announcer girl says them. Cockfosters. I laughed just now.
There’s an Internet claim of a street in the southwestern London borough (pronounced burra) of Tooting called Bollocks Terrace. Bollocks, in British English, otherwise known as English English, otherwise known as English, means one of two things: 1) total nonsense (first used in 1919), and, and 2) testicles (which has been used since at least 1744, although considering the British Empire controlled more than one-quarter of the world’s population from 1689 to 1901, British testicles have been in use for far longer).
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one scrap of evidence there’s a street named Bollocks Terrace. The claim is, well, bollocks. Which is too bad. I would have liked to have my picture taken in front of the sign. Well, that and one for Cockfosters.